Can Accused Killer Seth Winder Stay Sane Long Enough to Stand Trial?

For the friends and family of Richard Hernandez, justice seemed imminent -- until his accused killer's medically induced competence slipped away.

As the investigation got underway, Detective Dwayne Thompson checked Hernandez's bank account, looking for activity on his debit card. Since his disappearance, it had been used at 7-Eleven and QT, Sonic and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and at SuperTarget on Hebron Parkway, where a PlayStation2, a backpack and bug repellent were purchased. Target security queued up the tape and the detectives huddled around the monitor. At the time of the purchase, a man with short, blond hair stepped away from the cashier, carrying his bags. "Now, the only problem I have with that is the bug repellent," Thompson said as he watched. "You're talkin' about going out into the woods, brother."

The detective showed a still image to Arraiza and another friend, but neither recognized the man. But then the detectives went back to the complex and showed the photo to the property manager. She knew exactly who he was: Seth Winder. He moved out in 2007, she said, and not in good standing. And she'd seen him the day Hernandez disappeared. He was asking about renting an apartment. When she saw him again the next day, she told him to leave. He said he was visiting a friend, turned and walked away.

Sunday morning, three days after Hernandez disappeared, a call came in to the Carrollton Police. A man on Robin Hill Lane had found a bloodstained backpack in the trashcan, which sits in an alley behind his house. Some 50 yards away, through a break in the 10-foot hedge lining the alley, Winder had built a second camp in a small tangle of trees at the edge of a lot owned by Hebron Community Church, about 100 feet from the busy six lanes of Hebron Parkway. His mother used to live nearby. Dallas Police and U.S. Marshals had watched the camp all night, with no sign of Winder.

Seth Winder's father and stepmother, Rodney and Karen Winder, self-published a book about Seth's descent into madness.
Brandon Thibodeaux
Seth Winder's father and stepmother, Rodney and Karen Winder, self-published a book about Seth's descent into madness.
Seth Winder
Seth Winder

Digging through the bag's contents, they found empty beer cans and a Money Gram receipt from Winder's mother. They called her, and she led them to his father. Her son had left a samurai sword in his dad's garage that Friday, she told the police.

Yes, Rodney Winder told detectives, his son had been to the house. He'd shown up with a bag of damp towels, he said. He was almost certain someone dropped his son off. Winder had asked his dad if he could leave some things in his garage, and had pulled from his backpack a sword still in its packaging. His dad had also noticed a large wound on Winder's knuckle. He claimed he hurt it working on a car, Rodney said.

The detectives pressed Rodney for his son's whereabouts. He pointed to the woods near the transmission lines. They radioed for a helicopter, moved into the thick undergrowth and located the campsite — little more than a shredded tent, canvas flapping loosely from the frame. Inside, they found nothing but a jumble of soiled possessions — a box spring with a filthy sleeping bag on top of it, a blue Thermos, a broken sword, a Mahjong board, a pair of bloody pink shorts, a blood-spattered window treatment, a PlayStation2 and bug repellent.

From a brown paper bag, they pulled a receipt with the name "Richard Hernandez" printed on it. From a nearby limb, two vulture skulls and a feather swayed on a string, flesh still flaking from the bone.

They returned to Rodney's house the next day. The detectives had missed some things, Dad said, like the trash bag filled with sodden towels. But as they picked through a pile of Winder's belongings, they found something even more helpful: a canvas bag containing a camera and a video recorder. They turned on the camera and showed Rodney a picture of his son, nude and recumbent on a Scooby Doo blanket — in Richard Hernandez's apartment.

"That's Seth," Rodney said, and turned away.

Detective Thompson got a call later that day. Hernandez's debit card had been used to book a room at the Comfort Inn near Vista Ridge Mall. When they rushed into the room, guns drawn, they found nothing but an unmade bed. But not long after, a Lewisville patrolman who'd been dispatched to the motel passed a man matching Winder's description walking along Hebron Parkway, not far from the SuperTarget off I-35. The officer circled back around, no lights, no siren. When the patrolman cuffed the young man, he offered no resistance. He knelt there in the summer heat, sweat staining his faded Army T-shirt and beading on his tanned, expressionless face.

Back at Dallas Police headquarters, the detectives dug through his backpack. They found a set of keys, a few gift cards, copies of Paradise Lost and Easy Japanese plus a book by Sun Tzu.

Detective Thompson stepped into the interview room, where Winder was waiting, flicking a packet of sugar and emptying its contents into a cup of black coffee, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

"Me and you, we got a lot in common," he told Winder. "See that shirt you got on? I was in the Army. What branch was you in?"


It's an axiom dating back to English Common Law that justice demands a defendant able to understand the charges against him. If he can't, an attorney usually petitions the court for a competency hearing. If he's found incompetent, he's shipped off to a psychiatric facility for treatment until he's fit for trial. Only when he can successfully complete a 50-question test demonstrating a grasp of basic legal terms and an ability to assist his attorney can his prosecution legally proceed.

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11 comments
What the?
What the?

I may have read this wrong, but does anyone know why the maintenance man would have entered the apartment one day and claimed only to see a little red dirt on the carpet. Then the next day when confronted by the police he admitted seeing some blood in what the officer described as like a Stephen King movie?

thejman7
thejman7

Wow. Too bad Law & Order isn't on anymore as I would have loved to see how they handled this scenario.

Cindy
Cindy

Such a sad example of our flawed mental health and justice system. He was insane when he committed the murder but can't remember it but if he can stay medicated he can be prosecuted and sent to prison where he will have no mental health care. Where is there any justice here?

Rodster
Rodster

The book: Slipping into Madness -The Seth Winder Story is available online at Amazon.com and other online bookstores.

VivlianWozz
VivlianWozz

I am a 27 years old doctor,mature and beautiful. and now i am seeking a good man who can give me real love, so i got a sername Andromeda2002 on Agedate.СòM, a nice and free place for younger women and older men,or older women and younger men, to interact with each other.Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

Silvermoondog1
Silvermoondog1

I beg to differ with Derek Adame, the book didn't cause the trial delays. The proesecution wasn't ready, they delayed it over and over again after May of 2010.

bongkongcory
bongkongcory

@What the? I was the maintenance man that was interviewed by the homicide detectives in the first 48 " the guy with no shirt " I wanna say none of us were ever let in to the apt until the detectives asked for the victim's apt key I then was asked to get it & walk them to the apt but was not let in! They took the keys and opened the door saying he could still be in there. As they went in the apt I stood on the other side of the breezeway . There was alot that was not covered in the episode but being as the show was an hour long they put in enough for the common person just watching the show to know. All I remember was the small smeared bloody hand print on the corner of the window you could see from outside. We never saw the unit until it was aired on tv.... Poor guys! Both of them!!

My prayers go out to both sides of the family! May they find peace!!

Cindyray2012
Cindyray2012

How gross of you to try and capitalize on your son's insanity!!!!

 
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